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Close To Perfect

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Close To Perfect

by Tangent

Author's disclaimer: They're not mine and never will be, no matter how many falling stars I wish upon.

"Instinct, attraction, should have worked. I can't figure out why it didn't work."

Jim shook his head and leaned back against the pillows. He looked too calm, too comfortable. I can never figure out whether it amuses me or pisses me off that the man is unflappable. Not even men with guns or bombs can make him freak--unless there're innocent bystanders in danger, and even then he just gets mad. Like when there are crumbs on the counter. Same reaction. I really hate being the one that feels jittery.

"It worked for me," he said, all calm and smooth-like. Frustrated, I rolled my eyes.

"Yeah, I know it worked for you. That much was pretty damned obvious from the get-go--"

Jim smiled at me. His eyelids were already at half-mast, his expression lazy and amused. I wanted to hit him, especially when he said, "It seemed to work pretty well for you, too," and indicated the admittedly expansive wet spot between us.

"Not all of that is mine," I protested, and immediately felt like a moron. I was trying to convince him that it hadn't worked and we shouldn't do it again, and what did I admit almost immediately? That at least some of the wet spot was mine. Damn it.

Jim chuckled, then rolled out of the bed and started to tug the sheets off; he was obviously comfortable naked, and not planning to sleep on dirty sheets. That was all good for him, but it left me having to climb off the bed naked too, since God only knew where my boxers had gone, and I've never been buff like him. Chippendale dancers and romance novel cover models haven't even been buff like him. And all that buffness was kind of overwhelming when he was naked.

Especially since I remembered how that naked, muscular body had moved behind me--

Not good. It's not going to work, I reminded myself, maybe with a hint of frantic, desperate desire to believe. Not going to work, not going to work, not going to work.

Jim located my boxers twisted in the wreckage at the foot of the bed and tossed them to me. I shimmied into them as fast as I could and found my shirt, too, covering up as much as possible, hoping that would help. But I still felt awkward, and I still felt like a limp noodle, and I still wanted out.

I backed away from the bed, muttering to myself as he calmly balled up the linens. He brushed by me on his way to the stairs, a light and comfortable rub of satiated body against slightly more tense body, and I'm pretty certain that my eyes rolled like those of a panicked horse. I definitely shied away, but he didn't seem to notice, just went on down the first step.

"You want a drink?" he asked over his shoulder and I nodded frantically, dragged my hands through my hair, nodded some more even though he was gone by then. "Not going to work," I muttered before tossing through the clothes on the floor and finding my pants. The best option was escape--not easy with a Sentinel around, but possible. Probably. Maybe.

I crept towards the stairs but froze when I heard Jim open the fridge door and shout up the stairs, "Move another three feet from the bed, Sandburg, and I'll have you pinned to the floor before you take your next breath."

I might have whimpered, I'm not ashamed to admit it. But who wouldn't have when faced with a threat like that? Pinned beneath Jim, struggling on the satiny wooden floor, getting all sweaty and feeling him get all sweaty too--

"Damn damn damn." I judged the distance between myself and the bed, edged a little closer to it. Jim doesn't make threats that he doesn't intend to follow through with. The bastard.

"Really, Jim," I called back, "that didn't work for me. Obviously, you know, the curiousity part was pretty intense and I'll come when it's breezy, but--"

He was bounding back up the stairs. "You're so full of shit," he said, and handed me a glass of lemonade.

Full of panic, yes. Years and years we'd spent building up to the whole sleeping together thing and I never really thought it was going to happen and then it did and it was so good. And so destined to never happen again because I hadn't realized before what it might mean but after...oh yeah. I knew. And damn it all, I wasn't ready!

I edged away from him again. He crossed his arms over his chest, looking smug and calm, not even having the sense to look puzzled. Looking like he knew just what was going through my head, and while I wouldn't have bet that he *didn't*, I was also pretty sure that being a Sentinel did not make a man psychic.

Then again, there were a lot of things I wouldn't have thought being a Sentinel made a man, including open to sleeping with another man. All that protecting the tribe instinct, you'd think he'd want to propogate, have a happy harem of pregnant wives.

I put the lemonade on the bedside table, said, "Look, Jim, I even put it on a coaster," and wondered just what it was about him that reduced me to a babbling moron.

Oh, right. The fact that he was naked.

"I don't know why you're freaking out," he said, watching me closely. "You were, I believe, the one who made the first move."

"Well, yeah. So what? Now I'm making another move--like, right downstairs. Back to my own bed." Except he was blocking the stairs, and there was no way I was climbing over him to get to them. Or under him. Or anywhere near him, because I really just wanted to crawl back into his bed and never leave, and that was just not good.

Well, of course it was good. That was the whole problem, and I couldn't understand why he didn't see that.

"Hey, I wasn't the one who started this," Jim claimed, unfolding his arms to spread them out, looking more innocent than should have been possible, considering that he was half hard again. "Don't you think I should have a say in how it ends?"

"Absolutely not." I wondered how many bones I'd break if I leapt over the railing. It was only one flight down, right? Couldn't hurt too bad.

"Why not?"

I looked into his eyes. "Because you're going to say, 'Get back in the bed, Blair,' and that is totally not what I want right now."

Jim smiled. "Well, you're very wrong. I was going to say, 'Get on the floor, Blair,' and I think you want it pretty bad."

Oh. My. God.

"I hate you," I muttered. "Really."

Actually, that was part of the problem. It had been all right to consider sleeping with him when I just thought it was like, a proximity thing. An affection thing. A friendship thing, like it'd been with the one or two other guys I'd been with. But then I'd realized that it was more than all those things. And that wouldn't do, because it would be a big mistake to be in love with Jim Ellison. For one, the people who fall for him tend to die or turn criminal, and for two--well, I didn't want to be in love with anyone. You fall in love, you get hurt. Or you do the hurting.

And one thing I would never be able to stand doing would be hurting him.

"I don't understand you," Jim said, and finally there was a little frustration in those cool blue eyes. "I thought you wanted this. I thought it was good."

I stared at him for a long time, wondering just how much I should tell him--wondering what I could. There was so much going on inside me, so many conflicting urges, and they were all swimming in a sea of panic. "It was too good," I finally confessed. "First times are supposed to suck, Jim."

He blinked. "That's your problem? It didn't suck so obviously something's wrong?"

Put like that, it did sound retarded.

"Well, no." I fished for the truth. He deserved that much, anyway, even if I really didn't want to bring it up. "Ok, here's the thing." I paused, thinking some more.

"The thing?" he prodded, impatient, and I held up a hand.

"All right, um. Hmm, no. It's like--"

"Any day now, Sandburg--"


"Spit it out, already!"

"It's like--I really don't want to be in love with you, Jim," I finally blurted, and he stared at me. Shook his head.

"Excuse me?"

"Ireallydon'twanttobeinlovewithyou." It sounded better mumbled. Made more sense that way. Except Jim didn't seem to think so, just shook his head again like maybe he wasn't hearing me.

"You think you can turn love off and on like a light switch?" he asked me, sounding bewildered.

"Well, see, I'm thinking I won't turn it on at all. Better for both of us that way." I meant it, too, but his face got grim and tense.

"Newsflash." His voice was very, very quiet. "You're already in love with me, Blair. No going back now."

Shit. The second he said it, I knew he was right, and I would swear that my life flashed before my eyes. I sat down hard on the unmade bed and put my head in my heads.

"Oh, God, I don't want to die," I moaned.

"You're not going to," he assured me.

"I don't want to turn into a criminal."

"You've never even stolen a candy bar."

"I could get bored with all of this one day and leave you," I said. "I'm a Sandburg. We're gypsies. We're crazy. God only knows what we'll do."

"You're a cop. You're a grown-up. You've already spent more than half your life living in Cascade. I don't think you're going anywhere," he shot back.

That was true. Besides the occassional trip and a few research expeditions, I had been living in Cascade for a long time. Without restlessness, too.

"I could see a tall, leggy redhead on the street corner one day, fall in love at first sight, and forget that you exist," I tossed out desperately, really fishing in the bottom of the barrel now because even with my fertile imagination, I couldn't really see that happening any time soon. It was just a thought, and hopefully one he'd agree with--

"Not likely, Sandburg. Three redheads have asked you out this month alone and you turned them all down so you could spend more time with me."

I moaned again. He was right.

And then he was in front of me, kneeling, one hand on my knee and one touching my face. He should have looked silly, kneeling there naked, so serious, but he didn't. He looked just right.

"Wherever you go, I'll follow," he said very quietly, holding my chin so that I had to look at him. "And no matter who else you might think you're in love with some day, I'll fight for you. I'm committed to this, and I think you are too. That's what's really causing this, right? Your real problem."

"Maybe," I whispered. But I was thinking, ok, so maybe Sentinels are psychic after all, because that was just what I needed to hear. And he was right, too. I've never thought of myself as someone who was afraid of commitment, but when it came right down to it and I was staring the rest of my life in the face...maybe I was.

All right, so I definitely was.

"You don't have to be," he said. "Between the two of us, we can handle this. We've handled much scarier things than love and commitment."

"Do you have to be so right all of the time?" I complained, and he grinned.

"I think this is the first time you've ever said I was right about anything, Chief. So I guess this is a pretty amazing moment in a lot of ways, huh?"

I put my hands on his face and held on for a moment, looking into his eyes. They were clear and light, showing happiness and a hint of crankiness, affection and a little amusement. Jim had made up his mind. Jim was sure that I loved him and that he loved me, and that we could work it out.

And Jim was right a lot, even if I didn't always tell him so.

I felt myself calming down. There was no voice screaming "This is not working!" in the back of my mind anymore, and my stomach had stopped tossing, and there was no part of my heart that felt like maybe it could beat for someone else.

That was just a little panic attack, I found myself thinking. Things are good again.

Jim smiled, rose up off his knees, pulling me up with him. "Tell me I'm right," he breathed against my mouth, and I laughed.

"That going to be a turn on for you now?"

"Oh, big time. So come on. Say it."

"You're right," I said huskily, as sultry as I could be. "But don't get used to it."

He laughed before I gave in and kissed him, but he stopped when I sat back down on the edge of the bed and explored his hard stomach with my mouth, and that was fine with me. In fact, it all seemed pretty damn close to perfect.